Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, facing mounting political pressure, has lost a fourth key aide within a month, after his diplomatic spokesman Matan Sidi announced on Monday afternoon his departure from the Prime Minister’s Office.
The resignation of Sidi, 26, comes in the wake of those of diplomatic adviser Shimrit Meir, chief of staff Tal Gan-Zvi, and office manager and personal assistant Naomi Sasson, who all quit the prime minister’s service within the last month.
According to a statement from Bennett, Sidi is leaving to join the private sector.
He will be replaced by Yotam Ben Yitzhak, 32, who will move from his current role as Bennett’s political spokesman.
Since the forming of the government last June, Sidi has run communications within the Prime Minister’s Office and has been Bennett’s personal media adviser. During his four and a half years with Bennett’s team, Sidi also advised Bennett during his tenures running the education and defense ministries. Sidi has also worked as a spokesman for State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman.
Bennett, in a statement released by his office, thanked Sidi for his work and said that “Matan has been with me through all moments, those more successful and those less, leading the media campaign with thoroughness, professionalism and great talent.”
In a paired statement, Sidi said that working with Bennett was “the opportunity of a lifetime” and that he learned leadership lessons from the prime minister.
“I learned from him love of this people and this country, about public service, and most importantly — about withstanding pressures and fighting for your beliefs when your heart is in the right place,” read Sidi’s statement.
Ben Yitzhak, a former military officer who served as spokesman for the Israel Defense Force’s central and home front commands, transitioned to government as the spokesman for former finance minister Likud MK Israel Katz. He has served as Bennett’s political spokesman since the formation of the current government a year ago.
Sidi’s departure comes at a critical time. The Prime Minister’s Office is already under scrutiny for bleeding two senior personnel and a longtime aide. Meir — who had been considered Bennett’s most influential adviser — announced her departure in mid-May, after months of reported tension between her and Gan-Zvi. Gan-Zvi quickly followed suit, leaving Bennett after 13 years of working together. Sasson worked for Bennett from 2016 until her resignation a week ago.
The staff shakeups come at a time when the Bennett-led government is under extreme pressure and fighting for its survival. Following the early April resignation of coalition whip Idit Silman, of Bennett’s Yamina party, from the political alliance, the coalition has been deadlocked in a 60-60 seat parity with the coalition.
On Monday evening, hours after Sidi’s announcement, the coalition is expected to tackle an uncertain legislative and political test related to renewing the application of Israeli criminal and some civil law to West Bank settlers.
The law, renewed every five years since it was enacted in 1967 and set to expire at the end of June, has become a political test of strength by the opposition, which ideologically supports the legislation but politically is working to block its passage in order to weaken the government.
Championed by Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar, the bill to renew the emergency measures applying Israeli law to West Bank settlers may pull the coalition apart. Sa’ar has said that passing the law is a test of the coalition’s desire to continue. Some of its Arab members, specifically the Islamic Ra’am party’s four Knesset members and Meretz MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi, have waffled over whether they would vote for the law. Earlier on Monday, Rinawie Zoabi reportedly said that she would not vote for it, further adding tension to Bennett’s fragile government and coalition.